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In the American South, the cotton industry grew alongside slavery. Slavery existed in the Americas long before cotton became an important cash crop, but as the demand for cotton grew, so did the need for people to work in the cotton fields. Picking and cleaning cotton was hard, back-breaking work, and plantation owners forced enslaved workers to labor from dawn to dark to get the job done. By the early 1800s, “King Cotton” and the institution of slavery had become linked in the antebellum South. How did this happen?